I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again – the language that we use matters. It matters, because through our use of language we convey messages of importance or unimportance, of trust or distrust. Our choice of words conveys more than the simple message we intend to send.
When we talk about our employees or managers as “they”, we differentiate ourselves from them as leaders. “We” think about things one way, but “they” think about it another. Indeed much of the language that we use in our corporate worlds creates barriers and boundaries that need not necessarily exist. It is the manifestation of an underlying fragmentation in the culture of most organisations.
Let’s take a simple example:
“I have to deal with all these stupid requests from employees, because their managers can’t be bothered”
Whilst the words aren’t exact, this is the kind of phrase I’ve heard throughout my career – and have probably muttered once or twice in the past too!
“I’m helping to find answers to employee problems and support their managers in running their teams”
OK, so I appreciate talking this way sounds and feels a little unnatural – but why? Why should it feel any more unnatural than the first?
Then let’s think about the impact to others of thinking and talking in this way. If your belief system was based on this second statement, how would you think and act differently and what would others see of you in your role? Would you be part of something bigger, or fragmenting yourself into something more isolated?
Choosing our language carefully, every day and in every situation not only changes the way that others perceive us, but it can also start to change the way we think and perform. Our language carries much more importance internally to our belief system and externally to our ecosystem than we sometimes give it credit for.
That’s why language, and the way we use it, really does matter.